Alabama’s U.S. 5th Congressional District seat is up for grabs, and old and new faces are in the running.
Current representative Mo Brooks is running for United States Senate, and eight candidates – six Republicans and two Democrats - are seeking to replace him.
On the Republican side, the candidates include Andrew Blalock, John Roberts, Paul Sanford, Dale Strong, Casey Wardynski and Harrison Wright. Democrats Charlie Thompson and Kathy Warner-Stanton are running in the Democrat primary.
As the May 24 primary gets closer, 1819 News will be profiling candidates for the 5th Congressional seat.
U.S. Congressional candidate and Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong comes from eight generations of North Alabamians.
Strong said his great grandfather was a deputy sheriff and his grandmother taught elementary school in Monrovia, where Strong was born and still lives with his wife and two children. His father started one of the first volunteer fire departments in Madison County and was a trustee of local schools.
This history of public service inspired Strong to follow suit, he said. “[Involvement in the community] is the best way to make something better.”
Strong served as a volunteer firefighter for 29 years and an EMT for 26 of those years. He was also a 911 dispatcher, which helped him pay his way through college at Athens State.
For the past decade, Strong has been the chairman of the county commission of Madison County, Alabama’s third-largest county. According to World Population Review, Madison County has grown 16.22% since 2010. This is the fourth highest population growth in Alabama, behind Baldwin, Limestone and Lee counties.
According to Strong, his father started two businesses: Strong Store and Strong Tours.
Strong and his two siblings worked at Strong Store, a local family gas and grocery store when he was a kid.
“We opened up that business every morning before we went to school, and that’s where we learned that work ethic," said Strong.
Strong also said he drove buses at one point for Strong Tours, which provided road-bus services to destinations all over the continental U.S.
When he was young, Strong didn’t know he wanted to take over his father’s businesses. He said that when he was 15, he told everyone he wanted to run for public office instead.
He did take over the family businesses, although he eventually sold them for profit. Strong said his business experience is one of the most valuable assets he could bring to Congress.
Strong also worked in the pharmaceutical industry as a sales representative.
Strong said these experiences taught him how to “make a payroll,” which came in handy when he began his political career.
Strong was elected to Madison County Commission in 1996 as a representative of the western part of the county at a time when Republicans were in the minority.
“At that time, unincorporated Madison County was a lot different than it was today," said Strong. “...We did a lot for road safety [and performed] intersection upgrades. We built a lot of baseball fields, football fields and softball fields. We also [built] an indoor basketball facility. We built a 5,000-square-foot children’s library, just made the community a lot more conducive for young parents.”
During his time on the commission, Strong filed the application for the Madison Hospital.
“That process was [lengthy], but you look at it today, [and] it’s definitely helped our healthcare in North Alabama, and that hospital’s been very beneficial to many," said Strong.
Ten years ago, Strong ran for chairman of the Madison County Commission and recruited a Republican majority.
“Bringing people together is something that I take great pride in,” said Strong.
Strong won and became the first Republican chairman in Madison County history.
Strong said he inherited an 8.2% unemployment rate and severe financial problems from the previous administration. To combat this, he said he downsized local government by 16% by eliminating departments and overhauling healthcare insurance. He said this saved the county $11 million.
“You’ve got to understand that you can’t have too many employees on the payroll,” Strong said. “…There were a couple of departments that no longer worked for the taxpayers of Madison County… A lot of people chose in other places in Alabama to raise taxes… We did not.”
Strong also said he was able to add police deputies and increase their pay by 54%.
“We surrounded ourselves with great folks, and that’s what led to the prosperity we see here in Madison County," said Strong. "It led to 26,000 jobs being recruited to our region.”
National security and immigration
According to Strong, national security is “by far number one” on his list of priorities. He said part of national security includes protecting the border.
“We’re being invaded by illegal aliens, and it is taxing our country to death,” Strong said.
Strong was critical of asylum laws and said he wants to defend Title 42, which allows the surgeon general and the president to prohibit entry into the United States from specific foreign countries to protect the population from “communicable diseases.”
Former President Donald Trump used Title 42 to block land entry to many people from foreign countries.
“They need to stay in Mexico,” Strong said. “We will have a COVID issue in this country… We haven’t solved the problem… We’ve still got states that are having trouble… We do not need illegals coming into this country to compound the problem.”
Strong also said he supports increasing military funding and supporting Ukraine, although he said there is a need to “make sure we’re protecting America First” and doesn’t support sending troops to Ukraine.
“We’ve got to be sure that the U.S. warfighter and the weapons systems that protect our country are funded at a level that we can sustain,” Strong said.
Strong was critical of the way President Joe Biden pulled out of Afghanistan, calling it "totally unacceptable.”
Inflation and energy costs
Strong said inflation is “on the minds of every American.”
“Everybody is paying an unbelievable amount additional for gas and fuel,” Strong said. “Our farmers are currently paying more than $5 a gallon for diesel fuel. They’re struggling to get fertilizer. These things will impact every American… and so this is going to be a trickle-down effect once again where every American is going to pay because of the Biden administration and what they're doing to our country.”
Strong said his solution is to work with other Republicans to cut spending and dial back on regulation. “It’s the same thing we’ve done here on the micro-level in Madison County… Government cannot be all things to all people, and these handouts are going to destroy our country.”
According to Strong, federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) create problems for businesses trying to function efficiently. “They’re tying businesses' arms behind their back.”
Strong criticized business lockdowns during the COVID pandemic, stating, “This doesn’t work.”
Strong also urged a stop to spending COVID-19 dollars.
“The cities and the counties are doing fine without it," Strong said. "...We need to leave that money where it is.”
As for reducing energy prices, Strong advocated for producing energy domestically.
“We have plenty of energy here, and that’s what we’re looking at," said Strong. "We need to get the EPA out of the way so we can move forward. We need to produce this energy in America and watch what happens to the price of energy when we’re doing it.”
Education has become a hot topic among Republicans during the current campaign season. Many conservatives have been critical of what is being taught in public schools and of schools that require children to wear masks.
Strong said that the best thing Congress can do for education is abolish the Department of Education.
“Those decisions should be made at the state level," Strong said. "More bureaucrats in D.C making decisions for the people of Alabama? I’m not for that.”
Strong also opposes Common Core and supports school choice.
“I believe the dollar should follow the student," Strong said.
“Washington D.C. is broken.”
Strong said he believes that the average person in his district is frustrated with D.C.’s conduct.
“The people are sick of this [socialism]. They don’t like that one bit," he said.
“...I see first hand the success of what has occurred here in North Alabama with good leadership and the ability to communicate with others. I believe that Washington D.C. is broken"
Strong concluded, "and I believe I have something to offer.”
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